Tejasvi Surya had obtained a temporary injunction on 49 media houses from publishing defamatory stories on him earlier in March.

Media can publish news on Tejasvi Surya he can go to EC if he finds it defamatory HC
news Court Friday, April 12, 2019 - 18:00

The Karnataka High Court on Friday said that the temporary injunction passed by a Bengaluru sessions court banning 49 media outlets from reporting 'defamatory statements' against Bengaluru South BJP candidate Tejasvi Surya, does not mean that the media houses cannot publish news about him. 

The division bench of the Karnataka High Court comprising acting Chief Justice L Narayana Swamy and Justice PS Dinesh Kumar had on Thursday reserved its verdict after hearing arguments from both parties. The High Court order was based on a public interest litigation filed by Democratic Reforms Organisation seeking directions to set aside the injunction order granted by the sessions court on March 29.

On Friday, the court disposed of the petition. However, in its observations on Friday, the court said that whether or not something is defamatory can only be decided after it is published. Since the elections are underway, voters have a right to know information about candidates, the court said, adding that if Telasvi Surya finds any news defamatory after it is published, he can approach the EC. 

The division bench of the Karnataka High Court, heard the PIL against the injunction order on Thursday. The petitioner’s advocate had stated that voters had a right to know about the candidates in fray. He argued that the court had curtailed the media from reporting anything negative against Tejasvi Surya and that the court could not curtail the media its right to publish news stories as it interfered with free and fair process of elections, he said.

Senior advocate Ashok Haranahalli, who represented Tejasvi Surya, argued that the petitioner was not in the business of news and had no locus standi in the matter. 

The sessions court had, in a first of its kind order, granted a temporary injunction till May 27. Forty-four media outlets in India and five global digital media companies had been temporarily prohibited from publishing ‘defamatory and derogatory’ content about BJP candidate Tejasvi Surya since March 29, when the injunction was brought in.

While granting the ad-interim exparte temporary injunction (an exparte order is one which is given after only one side has been heard), the sessions court had noted that a #MeToo allegation against the candidate had surfaced only after he filed nomination. In his order, the judge observes, “How all of a sudden these allegations against the plaintiff emerged immediately after he filed nomination for General Elections is a questionable question," the court said, adding that though defendants have freedom of speech and expression, that cannot violate the human dignity of life of any citizen.”

Note: The article was edited after publication to reflect that while the court had not 'set aside' the gag order, it observed that media houses could publish news about Tejasvi Surya nevertheless. 

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